Benzodiazepines (BZD) misuse is a serious public health problem, especially among opiate-dependent patients with anxiety enrolled in methadone program because it puts patients at higher risk of life-threatening multiple drug overdoses. Both elevated anxiety and BZD misuse increase the risk for ex-addicts to relapse. However, there is no recent study to assess how serious the problem is and what factors are associated with BZD misuse. This study estimates the prevalence of BZD misuse in a methadone program, and provides information on the characteristics of BZD users compared to non-users.
An anonymous survey was carried out at a methadone program in Baltimore, MD, and all patients were invited to participate through group meetings and fliers around the clinic on a voluntary basis. Of the 205 returned questionnaires, 194 were complete and entered into final data analysis. Those who completed the questionnaire were offered a $5 gift card as an appreciation.
47% of the respondents had a history of BZD use, and 39.8% used BZD without a prescription. Half of the BZD users (54%) started using BZD after entering the methadone program, and 61% of previous BZD users reported increased or resumed use after entering methadone program. Compared to the non-users, BZD users were more likely to be White, have prescribed medication for mental problems, have preexistent anxiety problems before opiate use, and had anxiety problems before entering methadone program. They reported more mental health problems in the past month, and had higher scores in anxiety state, depression and perceived stress (p < .05).
Important information on epidemiology of BZD misuse among methadone-maintenance patients suggests that most methadone programs do not address co-occurring anxiety problems, and methadone treatment may trigger onset or worsening of BZD misuse. Further study is needed to explore how to curb misuse and abuse of BZD in the addiction population, and provide effective treatments targeting simultaneously addiction symptoms, anxiety disorders and BZD misuse.
Keywords: Benzodiazepines use, prescription drug misuse, methadone program, anxiety, survey study